The Death of Bees

Thoughts tdobbylo The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell, Harper Collins 2013, 320 pages. eBook

For my IRL Book Club.

FIRST Sentence: Izzy called me Marnie after her mother.

What’s it ABOUT: Before we read the sentence above, we are introduced to Marnie when she tells us it is Christmas Eve, that it is her 15th birthday and she just buried her parents in the backyard. So we know she must be a scrappy kid and now an orphan. We go on to hear her side of the story as well as her younger sister and also a bit – quite a bit – from the neighbor, Lenny, who takes the risk to care for the girls. It is not a pretty story – one of poverty and crime, drugs and “family gone wrong”, with menacing predators all around. There is hope but it is risky to reach for, or so Marnie believes.

What’s GOOD: Marnie is smart but does not have any examples of how being smart might save her. What she knows about life is to survive it but not how to escape and create something better. She is angry and has zero trust in adults unless they provide access to money. If she didn’t have her odd, musically-talented little sister to care for, she would likely be sunk. Nelly, the sister, craves love and is willing to take chances on those opportunities. I really liked Nelly. Marnie was a lot tougher and was angry with herself when she doubted and sensed her own fear.

“In the end I go to the garden and tell Izzy, she could never keep a secret before, but given her situation she’s great at keeping secrets. So is Gene, but then again always was.”

The tension is remarkable. Being cold in Scotland at the time, the parents have been buried in shallow graves — the dog next door is extremely curious what is under those flower bushes. Certainly has some funny moments but one knows it can’t end well.

What’s NOT so good: It is not a book of butterflies and daisies.

It is always a risky move to make the people you want to cheer for be characters with ugly behaviors but the author somehow succeeds in this. She provides a subtle hope that ‘bad’ people can rise above their poor decisions and change for the good. Some do, some do not, some we may never know. This book has few sentimental waverings, nor is it harshly cynical. This isn’t a criticism so my heading for this paragraph is misleading. I suspect the grittiness is what drove my friend to decide to not finish it. I spent some time trying to figure out what it was the HL found so objectionable and I think it was too dark. I’m thinking that she can’t abide child abuse and the situations like what Marnie and Nelly have to endure. And that’s OK: it aint pretty – just sayin’.

The LitLovers site for this book (the cover links to it) has Discussion Questions which I considered* answering for this post. Let’s discuss the title. The death of honeybees becomes a question and concern for Nelly but her sister Marnie can’t answer it and finally tells her the blunt sad truth that “no one knows!” and to SHUT UP about it. Nelly hates when she can’t get an answer for her questions; Marnie prefers to forget and endure. But Nelly knows this is one more example that the world just doesn’t care. I think the author is telling us that we/people/governments/whoever-is-in-charge don’t have a clue what to do nor how to deal with poverty. Shouldn’t someone figure this out? We are not doing a good job of helping our children.

FINAL thoughts: I liked the telling of this story. It is brutal and unique.

RATING:  Better than a three-slicer and not outstanding enough to be a five. That leaves me with four slices of pie.

Other REVIEWS: Judith at Leeswamme’s Blog has an excellent description of plot, the Literary Feline agrees that “It is dark and at times gritty”, AND  is very good (She also provides excellent plot), Caribousmom can’t quite recommend it and says it is “just too dark and left me feeling disheartened rather than hopeful.” Farmlane Books calls it a strange book, that it provoked strong reactions and she “Recommend(s) to book clubs who’d like an animated discussion!

I think this might be our best book club book discussion yet this year, based on the reviews I have read.  I heartily recommend you click the links above if you are interested in this story.


“Birds keep chirping and music keeps playing. Life continues as another life ebbs away.

We have seen death before, Marnie and I, a mountain of ice melting over time, drops of water freezing at your core reminding you every day of that which has vanished, but the despair we know today is a sadness sailing sorrow through every bone and knuckle.”



* And then I remembered that this blog is supposed to be FUN.




Copyright © 2007-2014. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Mary Reilly

Thoughts     Mary Reilly  by Valerie Martin, Thorndike LARGE PRINT 1990, 314 pages

FIRST SENTENCE:  It wasn’t the first time I’d been shut up in the closet, if closet isn’t too grand a word for the little cupboard under the stairs.

MOTIVATION:  I had selected this last year for RIP but hadn’t gotten to it. This year, I didn’t officially sign up for Readers Imbibing Peril — I believe the number this year is VI = 6, yes? — but have found myself reading two books in a row that would qualify nicely!

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  This story is from the viewpoint of a housemaid in service to Dr. Jekyll, eminent philanthropist and scientist in nineteenth century London. I have no idea what year exactly, but I have to assume pre-automobile. To anyone who knows the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, than I have told you all you need to know. If, however, you don’t know much about Jekyll & Hyde; well, that’s OK, too. You’ll figure it out.  I myself, didn’t know much; I have never read the original The Strange Case of __ by Robert Louis Stevenson nor seen any movies.

I liked it. A lot. Pacing was perfect, Mary was perfect, the fear factor low. I really don’t enjoy scary books and this wasn’t exactly scary, but it was tense in a good way.

RATING:  Four slices of pie. Strawberry Pie, since strawberries were mentioned as the good doctor’s favorite. But it would have to be a two-crust cooked strawberry pie not one of those pretty glazed ones – Oh YES, with Rhubarb!  Strawberry Rhubarb Pie; to give it a sweet – tart balance such as the personality/ies embodied by said ‘good’ doctor.

I really want to see the movie now. Oddly enough, I was more than half way through when I started envisioning John Malkovich playing our Dr. Jekyll and even Julia Roberts effectively became Mary and yet not to the detriment of how it all played out.  Like I said; ODD. Very odd. I don’t think reviews were kind. Anyone seen it?

Also, the end of this book has an afterword that I most appreciated. Afterwords are good. It speculated on Mary’s use of language; very helpful.

Other REVIEWS:  See Fyrefly’s Awesome book blogger search.



Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Yesterday Morning

Thoughts    Yesterday Morning: A Very English Childhood  by Diana Athill, Granta Books 2002, 168 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:  Because CitizenReader told me to.  Sort of.  Not this specific title, but when I searched the library, I was captured by the cover. I must rethink my oft-repeated stance that I never choose a book by its cover. I do. Rarely, but I do.

FIRST SENTENCE:   ” ‘OH MY GOD, said my mother. ‘Can I really have a daughter who is seventy?’ and we both burst out laughing.”

WHAT’s is ABOUT:  Athill shares her childhood memories and reflections growing up ‘in the country’, in a big house with servants, boarding schools, her parents and siblings and cousins, first love, horses and everything else. It was exactly a very English upbringing and she brought out all the fun,  oddities and miseries.   Nothing grand, very personal, extremely insightful and quite enjoyable.

I loved the opening – my own mother often says she will no longer celebrate my birthday because it makes her feel old.  I expect we will have this conversation a few more decades, considering her own mother lived three years past 100.  People tease me that I am still a teenager (I am in my mid-forties now.)

“This childhood memoir is remarkable for its truthfulness …  Athill writes with such skill and wit …  a vivid picture of a childhood in a distant world.”

– Spectator


Athill is an excellent writer; effortlessly transporting the reader to a different time and place.  She delights – and the reader does, too – in the joys of idyllic unchaperoned days roaming the countryside as a kid. She questions (now) the class system framed in how she was cared for and who she associated with.  She frets over ‘proper’ behavior and expectations. She exposes her ideas about her parents’ marriage from within her early recollections and against the backdrop of their letters she found many many years later. She deftly weaves along her stories and though occasionally have a feel of being random, they all come together to portray how she became the woman she is.  Actually, she teases, too.  I now want to read more of her memoirs; especially Instead of a Letter which is more indepth about her becoming engaged to marry but then…  didn’t.  I am also curious about Stet which is about her career as an editor but I suspect it will feature many authors I do not know.

I feel like I’ve met a friend inside of a book. It is highly unlikely that I will ever meet her and would probably show myself grossly under-read if I had the opportunity to do so. She mentions many books and authors* that I am unfamiliar with but this wasn’t off-putting. It only increased my tbr.    I loved that we are given plenty of photos.


“Five counters of different colours lined up on a table; the three-year-old child, already so good at the alphabet, being taught to count:  one, two, three, four, five. I get it right at once and Mummy is delighted:  ‘Look, she can count up to five already!’  But by the time an audience has collected the counters have been shuffled, and this time I say ‘Five, two, four, three, one’. ‘No, darling…’ but I insist ‘Yes’. They try again and again, until suddenly someone understands that I had never been counting, I had been naming.  The yellow counter at the end of the row is called ‘five’, and it is still called ‘five’ when it comes at the beginning.  They have to give up or I would be in tears at their misunderstanding.  It was many days before I grasped what they meant by ‘counting’ and I was to remain a namer, not a numberer, for the rest of my life.”    p.46

WORDS  (or the only one I noted…  I probably skipped a few more.)
p. 35 chivvy – to harass, nag or torment.  Also, to tell (someone) repeatedly to do something.

RECOMMENDED for anyone who wonders what it was like to grow up in England in the Twenties and who admires terrific writing.

* Favorite fiction-writers:  Alice Munro, Raymond Carver, Par Barker, Hilary Mantel. Martin Amis (the only one I’ve read!) left her cold.  “A recent discovery, David Foster Wallace, who seems to be obsessional almost to the point of madness so that too often he threatens to smother the reader, has nevertheless done some of the best writing I have ever read, for which I am very grateful.”


Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The History of Love (Part 2)

Thoughts     The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, WW Norton & Company 2005, 255 pages

FIRST SENTENCEs:   When they write my obituary.  Tomorrow.  Or the next day.

MOTIVATION for READING:   See prior post.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    An old man awaits death but has a fierce hope that he has a few connections yet to play.     And boy-howdy!   do those coincidental connections get set into motion – some are missed, some are vibrant and kicking, all are heart-breaking.   We have a young girl named Alma who is actively on a search but for what exactly, she is unsure.     And her little brother, Bird has his own mission to fulfill.      It’s a book about a book, too, and how a book can have very impactful meaning.      And don’t let me forget the elephants!

“He learned to live with the truth.  Not to accept it, but to live with it.  It was like living with an elephant.  His room was tiny, and every morning he had to squeeze around the truth just to get to the bathroom. To reach the armoire to get a pair of underpants he had to crawl under the truth, praying it wouldn’t choose that moment to sit on his face  At night, when he closed his eyes, he felt it looming above him.”

SYMBOLISM:   I am a symbolism geek.   I can’t say I’m particularly skilled at identifying or evaluating meaning but I love find these gems in literature.      For me, the elephants in tHoL loomed large.   Of course, it wasn’t until the second elephant was mentioned that I started to notice them lurking in the story.   You might say an elephant would be hard to hide, wouldn’t you?   Ah, but when they are imagined, are they real?

The elephant in the room — I mean novel — was how huge the effect of love is on our lives.    And just how we avoid that elephant in the room is how we fail to recognize the power of love and misuse it so often.      And how personal love is.    Love is truth.

SPOILERS…   (just highlight to read, I’ve changed font color to white to hide.)

Leo loves Alma.  That horrid war, the atrocities by the Nazis inflicted on the Jews of Eastern Europe interrupts that love, sort of.    Alma escapes to the US and assumes Leo is killed.  Not only Alma assumes this, but so does Zvi.   Zvi is holding Leo’s book for safekeeping.   Oh the tragic story line that is Zvi!  and the decision made by Rosa.   (insert knife, twist.)    Then there’s Alma’s parents; her mother.    The original Alma and her decision.   


Now that I think of it, the women in the book do not come off looking very good.

WHAT I LIKED:    Most everything.   WHAT I didn’t LIKE:  Nothing I can think of right now. For me, everything worked.

“I remember the first time I realized I could make myself see something that wasn’t there.  I was ten years old, walking home from school.  Some boys from my class ran by shouting and laughing.  I wanted to be like them and yet.  I didn’t know how.   I’d always felt different from the others, and the difference hurt.  And then I turned the corner and saw it.  A huge elephant, standing alone in the square.  I knew I was imagining it.  and yet.   I wanted to believe.
So I tried.
And I found I could.”

I would use the word sublime but it’s not in my vocabulary.   The word just doesn’t sound right to me but I like the definition.

RATING:    Five slices of pie.

SUBLIME – exalted elevated noble lofty, awe-inspiring majestic magnificent glorious superb wonderful marvelous splendid fantastic fabulous terrific heavenly divine out of this world.
p.140 – dai ruku – in Russian познай самого себя – in English “Know Thyself”
p.186 – denuded – laid bare, strip,clear, deprive, bereave, rob, uncover, expose

p.205 “Fools and weeds grow without rain.”  (new to me; I like)


Mrs. B at The Literary Stew read this and reviewed the same day I did!   (And it is excellent.)  Coincidence?!
and another great review at BiblioJunkie with a character chart (and spoilers) but well done and informative.
Link to the Book Blog Search Engine for this title.



Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Birth of Love

Wondrous Words Wednesday!     

Thoughts    The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna, Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Company 2010, 304 pages.

Fiction selection for Citizen Reader’s Book Menage May 23, along with nonfiction The Doctors’ Plague, which I posted on just prior to this.


THE MOON.  “The year is 1865 and Ignaz Semmelweis is dragged along the corridor though he struggles violently, kicks and shouts.”

THE TOWER.  “The year is 2153 and Prisoner 730004 is forced into a cell.”

THE EMPRESS.  “The year is 2009 and Brigid feels the birthing pains deep within her and knows it has begun.”

THE HERMIT.  “For years he had failed and failed again; he had been disappointed a hundred times and then he had the book in his hand.”

OOoooh  goodness.    Four different story lines from three different time periods weave together a tale of love, pain, guilt, misunderstandings, confusion, regret and finally, wonder.

I read most of the present day birthing scene parts while traveling on Mother’s Day; I really felt the significance. I won’t debate how authentic or realistic, though I have seen some reviews that say it isn’t – – how can anyone really question another’s experience anyway? I thought the writing in the EMPRESS section was vivid and emotional charged.

In fact, I thought the writing was spectacular in many ways in every section. The construction at the end, when each storyline was only a paragraph and we rapidly switched from one to the next, was fabulous and quite effective. The pacing here was intense.

However. I did end up with questions. I was not convinced with the future timeline events and connections. I am eagerly awaiting the discussion scheduled for next week and why I had to write and post this review now versus later. I have been reading other reviews (see a few links at the end of this post) and most have been favorable and pointing out themes and issues that somehow make sense to me now but I missed while reading.    Hand slap to forehead, but that is me.

Perhaps because I had read the nonfiction selection on Semmelweis first, I was very interested in this part particularly.   Also, the HERMIT storyline was wonderful – this was my favorite part which seems to put me in the minority.   Some book blurbs don’t even mention this 4th ‘story ‘ – it was about a guy who had given up living in order to write and finally after many years, he has a book (the Semmelweis storyline!) published and is feted around town.   I was captivated by his discomfort with success when it had been his goal for so long.   I thought Kavenna brilliantly portrayed his stress in conversation and setting.    And yet, I didn’t quite relate to the parts about him being desperate to reconnect with his mother – I felt it was more a flight option/excuse to get out of the parties in his honor than a new realization of his love for mommy.   Yet this was likely the connecting theme to the other stories.

Does this mean that I enjoyed the action and thought processes of the characters more than their motivations?   I somehow glossed over the mother-child love connection theme that threaded through each story.     I really missed it on the future timeline thing and felt clubbed a bit for the obvious links provided and yet then wondered, “Hey, WTH?! ”

“She kissed him and held him to her, whispering in his ear, telling him how precious he was and how much she loved him. Though she felt spiky and savage within, she never doubted that she loved her son  Her love was infinite; she sensed that there was a deep infinite core of love, and then a lesser love, her surface emotion, where everything got sullied by quotidian demands, and mingled with guilt.”  p.50

Any bookclubbers looking for a highly discussable book would not do wrong by selecting The Birth of Love.   I am putting Joanna Kavenna on my author-to-watch list.    The more I think about this book, the more I am impressed.

You still have time to read this before next week’s discussions!     Visit or come back here, I will link up to each batch of questions/discussions as they unfold.

OTHER REVIEWS:   Savidge Reads, Farmlane Books, Nomadreader, link to Fyrefly’s BookBlog Search Results for this title.

p.28 – traduced – speak badly of or tell lies about (someone) so as to damage their reputation.
p.36 – malefactor – a person who commits a crime or some other wrong.
p.49 – augury – a sign of what will happen in the future; an omen.
p.57 – charnel house – associated with death.
p.60 – unguent – “…her hair newly dyed, skin creamed with some expensive unguent, her jewelry sparkling…” – a soft greasy or viscous substance (I thought this word totally disrupted the imagery of the rest of the sentence; perhaps it was supposed to.)


Copyright © 2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Doctors’ Plague

Notes & Thoughts    The Doctors’ Plague:  Germs, Childbed Fever, and the Strange Story of Ignac Semmelweis by Sherwin B Nuland, W. W. Norton & Company 2003, 191 pages

for Citizen Reader’s Book Menage, May 23

As is typical of books I check out from the library, I have returned it before writing the review.  I did take notes, so let’s see what I can piece together (new stuff is in green, definitions in blue).   This may turn into a big vocabulary lesson.

i    ISBN 0393052990 is written down but according to this gives page count at 160.  I know I had the 191 page version.

119 lucubration –  a piece of writing, typically a pedantic or overelaborate one.

127 Klein’s son-in-law ?!  –  (I don‘t remember what this is nor why it was note-worthy, perhaps my next jottings will lend a clue:)  why does NO one else DUPLICATE the theory in lab work?!

149  sinecure – a position requiring little or no work but giving the holder status or financial benefit.  (I just love this word; I want a sinecure, (perhaps I have one…))

152 beleagured – (I love this word, too.)  beset with troubles.   (maybe it’s the definition that I like)

156 logorrheic (couldn’t find, but did find) logorrhea – “pathologically incoherent, repetition incessant or compulsive talkativeness, wearisome volubility/voluble
If PATHOLOGIC means ‘diseased’, then is this a double entrendre?
Basically, it was 543 pages of unreadable crap (I think I am paraphrasing Nuland’s paragraph describing Semmelweis’s final written defense.)

158 bombastic (another groovy word I like because it sounds like its meaning) – high-sounding language with little meaning, used to impress people.

166 profligacy – shameless dissoluteness / reckless extravagance / great abundance 

157 – DOH WOW!! (again, I barely recall what I am reacting to, please someone tell me?) OMG – SO SAD!
um, if TV, it would have been murder   (WHAT?! am I wondering if ‘they’ air a made-for-TV drama?)

170 rara avis – a rare person or thing

172 – maladroit (for some reason, I had never quite given real thought to this being the opposite of adroit.)awkward, bungling, tactless

173 “as so often happens in psychopathology, self-concept exists side by side with its opposite …  Apparent disloyalty and deeply insecure men unable to take obvious next step.”   ?   huh.

175 Aeschylus, Sophocles:    deeply insecure, yet arrogant?

180 encomia – a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly.

190 Reference to 1949 Morton Thompson’s The Cry and the Covenanthas anyone read this?





I found Dr. Semmelweis and his behavior very fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed Nuland’s theories of Early Onset Alzheimers.   I was saddened by what happened to the poor guy.    Though I sort of knew the story going in, I was not aware the time between his commitment to the Insane Asylum and his death was so very short.   Which made the next book (The Birth of Love) even MORE fascinating and I am so glad I chose to read this first.

What I didn’t get nor understand was WHY no other doctors anywhere in the world, took up Semmelweis’ ideas and tried to prove or unprove the germ theory!    Was it some professional code that the so-called experts needed the originator to present something/anything in order to run a counter proof?     It just seems odd that SO MANY years went by with his friends’ only trying to persuade Semmelweis to publish rather than someone just taking it and running their own experiments.


And, really.   Knowing what we now know of germ theory and our culture’s current paranoia of washing everything carefully or we might DIE , it’s a wonder that anyone in the Vienna hospitals back then survived at all.     It’s so hard not think of all Semmelweis’ opponents as damnable and arrogant assholes.

Very interesting book; I recommend.


Copyright © 2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Sister Outsider

Thoughts   Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde, The Crossing Press 1984, 190 pages.

MOTIVATION for READING:    This is another nonfiction choice for my participation in the Women Unbound Challenge.    I checked it out from the library.     I would also like to count this for the GLBT Challenge if I can.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    Audre Lorde describes herself with this sentence:  “I am a Black, lesbian, feminist, warrior, poet, mother doing my work.”    This collection of essays and speeches span from the mid 197os to 1983.    I wanted to know what she was all about.   Per a suggestion of authors to read for this challenge;  I wanted to explore a feminist perspective that would possibly be quite unlike my own.      We are treated to bookends of travelogues to Russia and Grenada, instructed with a call to break the silence, allowed into letters and conversations, enlightened by her defense of poetry, given her look at motherhood, and challenged by/to more.

WHAT’s GOOD:   In exploring my own bias and expectations to Ms. Lorde based on her self-description, I admit that I wondered if I would encounter militancy and anger.     Militancy is defined as “combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, and typically favoring extreme, violent, or confrontational methods”  and no, I did not find this in Lorde’s writings.   Anger, yes.     Anger so vivid, grounded and controlled that I was blown away by Lorde’s powers of expressing herself, her point of view, her work.     I enjoyed most of these essays – they represent a variety of topics yet all show her exquisite skills in sharing her feelings and experiences.    I appreciated her strength and her lessons.   I learned a lot and I admire her talents.

I was curious how this idea of reading something quite different from my younger white heterosexual non-poet, non-mother perspective could influence my experience.   I was intrigued if I would struggle with ‘relatability’.    Of course, we do share a belief in women’s rights.   Yet, Ms. Lorde DOES explain why I can’t know her experience and why this isn’t the point.   The point is that we each have to agree to accept and understand that these differences exist and because of this not despite this, to hold onto the humanity of each other’s perspective, to respect and allow opportunity, rights and life – the embracing of the right to have each other’s experience free from limits, of negativity and submission and even being ignored.   One’s right to live a full whole life does not require a dismissal or diminishing of another’s right to a full whole life.    AND we do have to seek out and embrace these ‘other’ perspectives, to recognize the fight is bigger than our little circle of personal concerns.   It’s not enough to know how I can work to make the world better for me, just to fight for my own issues – but to fight for the best for everyone.     I can’t know her experience – I can’t put her shoes on.    But I can read and respect her right to what she so eloquently shares in these essays and I encourage you to, as well.

I imagine that if I had had the opportunity to meet her, she would be one of those amazing awe-inspiring talents who can really look at you and see your very soul.    Don’t you love knowing people who can do that?   I’ve met some but not many.   I bet Ms. Lorde was one of those strong soulful soul-inspiring sages.    


I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or a chisel to remind you of your me-ness, as I discover you in myself.

The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives.  It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized.  This is poetry as illumination , for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are – until the poem – nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt.  That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.    [read the entire essay “Poetry is Not a Luxury” here.]

And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives.  That we not hide behind the mockeries of separations that have been imposed upon us and which so often we accept as our own.  For instance, “I can’t possibly teach Black women’s writing – their experience is so different from mine.”  Yet how many years have you spent teaching Plato and Shakespeare and Proust?”


The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of these differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence.   And there are so many silences to be broken.

both from “Transformation of Silence“.

__  __  __  __

…, we still know that the power to kill is less than the power to create, for it produces an ending rather than the beginning of something new.

… as I learn my worth and genuine possibility, I refuse to settle for anything less than a rigorous pursuit of the possible in myself, at the same time making a distinction between what is possible and what the outside world drives me to do in order to prove I am human.   It means being able to recognize my successes, and to be tender with myself, even when I fail.

We must recognize and nurture the creative parts of each other without always understanding what will be created.

Above quotes from essay “Eye to Eye“.

__  __  __  __

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS of this book and the author:     The Eleventh Stack / Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh,   (did I miss yours?)


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

A Single Man

Thoughts   A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood, University of Minnesota Press 2001 (orig 1964), 186 pages.

MOTIVATION for READING:   Purchased for The Bookies’ selection for April (my in-real-life book club — discussion 4/15.)

It was my turn to suggest.    I had too many to offer* and we all voted by ranking our choices; this book won.  I love book-to-movie adaptions and cannot wait to see this flick starring Colin Firth and Julianne Moore – it is supposed to be artistically visually astonishing.    Maybe that’s a bit strong but it is captures my excitement to see what fashion-designer-turned-film-director Tom Ford has done with the story.    However, I screwed up!   The movie has yet to be released to DVD so The Bookies will not be coming to my house for movie-viewing;  we’ll be at the pub again per usual.

Before I share my thoughts, do know that I was heavily influenced to the positive by the reviews I found (thank you Fyrefly!) – I encourage you to check these out:

Asylym’s review – “…Isherwood’s “masterpiece”, a claim for once not overstated.”

Savidge Reads – “For such a small book it is brimming with ideas, emotions, and people and actually took me a while to read at there is so much to take in. It’s utterly remarkable.”

A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook – “…very stream-of-conscious with surgical precision and unsentimentality.

Book Maven’s Blog – “…achingly poetic…”

Paperback Reader – “A tender and stark evocation of grief, A Single Man is also exceptionally perceptive.”

WHAT’s it ABOUT:    A day in the life of an early 60’s English Literature professor who lives in California.    He believes he is only playing a part;  the role of his former self — a lie, an empty life, a shell of man not quite sure how to really live anymore.   The love of his life, Jim, has died and he is grieving.   His whole world is gone and no one really knows; he can’t quite share the totality of it.   But he goes through the motions, grasping at connections and analyzing everything.   The raw range of emotions he feels is palpable; his loneliness is aching and painful.    I was completely engrossed.

George laughs in an appropriately sardonic manner, since this is what Grant expects of him.  But this gallows humor sickens his heart.  In all those old crises of the twenties, the thirties, the war – each one of them has left its traces upon George, like an illness – what was terrible was the fear of annihilation.  Now we have with us a far more terrible fear, the fear of survival.

I had intended to share more;   contemplated doing research on Huxley and Tennyson and Tithonus!    About the cold war and fear of ‘rockets’ and/or fear of survival.    Of course, the hating – hating ‘them’ because they are not ‘us’.      The longer I’m away from this reading experience, the more fascinated I am with what Isherwood has created.  As a character study as well as encapsulating a piece of time; this book is brilliantly done.

Based on feedback thus far among The Bookies, we will be having a polarized** and spirited discussion.     Golly, I so hope!

I also read this book for the GLBT Challenge.    

For the record, I want to thank the UofMN Press for the gorgeous and slickery feel of this tradeback.      I want to caress this book every time I pick it up.


*  I bought all of these because I want to read them/view them: An Education/Lynn Barber, Blindness/Saramago, Ethan Frome/Wharton, Up In the Air/Walter Kirn, The Maltese Falcon/Hammett, A River Runs Through It/Maclean…

**  I gave it four stars in goodreads;  others are not liking it quite as much.   I just might have to change my rating to five stars but can’t decide if I’m only being contrarian now.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

Love Begins in Winter

Thoughts   Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy, Harper Perennial 2009, 227 pages

SPACE/TAB Do I have a book to recommend to you!

Dear Friend-Who-Reads-Poetry,
SPACE/TAB Have you ever read any Simon Van Booy?   His writing is poetic…

Dear Friend-Who-Reads-Mostly-Patterson-&-Picoult,
SPACE/TAB Oh, I’m sorry?  Did you say something?  You asked me what’s the best book I’ve read lately?  OH, um, you probably have never heard of it; but it’s REALLY GOOD!     But, it’s… um,  moving.  But not a lot happens, really.   AND quietly almost sad?     Um – Actually, it’s a short story collection – but they’re beautiful!     Want  me to loan it to you?

Dear Friend-Who-Lives-in-Mississippi-Who-Rec’d-SVB,
SPACE/TAB Oh, THANK YOU!   I loved it!   And it’s SO COOL to see your name in the Acknowledgements.   *SMILES*

Dear Reader-Of-This-Post-Who-Is-Still-Here,
SPACE/TAB Would you like me to quote a bit?

“It’s true the people we meet shape us.  But the people we don’t meet shape us also, often more because we have imagined them so vividly.
There are people we yearn for but never seem to meet.  Every adult yearns for some stranger, but it is really childhood we miss.  We are yearning for that which has been stolen from us by what we have become.”

This is from one of the stories (Tiger, Tiger) that was most haunting for me, and yet not in a scary ghostly way but in a thought-echoing way.  Simon Van Booy’s writing makes you feel like you are underwater and every thing is crisp-clear and the rest of the world is muffled-sound.   I can’t describe the solemnness I felt while immersing in the world of these stories.   And yet, you might think the next emotion to jump to would be ‘depressing’ and these stories are NOT.

I was moved.  I was awed.    Some stories – there are only five – I liked more than others which is fine, to be expected, welcomed even.   And I was both entranced by the simple sentence (subject -> verb, subject -> verb, etc) structure of the very first story and also caught by it;  I was in a net – I was a fly in the spiderwebbed words.    I will re-read this, I will.*

I ended one story and caught myself stifling the burst of a sob!

Dear Friend-Who-Loves-Those-Half-Flaps-for-BookMarking-Pages,
SPACE/TAB This book itself is beautiful to hold and feel and touch.    Which is not a usual thing to say about a tradeback.

Dear Friend-Who-Wants-the-Chance-to-WIN-This-Book,
SPACE/TAB Visit Nancy, the BookFool’s blog – she is hosting a giveaway – but you have to hurry because it ends March 7, Sunday, TOMORROW! Sorry, I have been trying to write this review for days but have been quite intimidated.

I really loved the writing.     Five Pieces of Chocolate Silk Pie with Dark Chocolate Curls topping the Meringue (I don’t know if Chocolate Silk Pie HAS meringue but I would if I made it…)

P.S. Do you want to read some REAL reviews?       Nancy, Wendy, Lesley, GavinThe-Book-Blog-Search-I-Found-Most-of-These-Reviews

P.S.S. Oh! If/when you read this! Read the section in the back about Meeting the Author and the What I Do When I’m Not Writing Books – Simon Van Booy shows that he is a fascinating FUN guy and more than just an amazing story writer! I cannot wait to try the recipes.  And to read ALL of his books.

* I’m only now (maybe) starting to be a re-reader….


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

End of Year 2009 Meme

Saw this at FizzyThought’s and then traced back to the originator, Savidge Reads. HHI had been working on my spreadsheet and counts and categories and truthfully, got frustrated when nothing added up so if please don’t analyze too closely.       Then I saw this meme and I’m either nuts to add to my already disorganized attempt to manage this summary or…   oh, I don’t know.  I still can’t think straight from those couple of few many glasses of champagne on New Year’s Eve…

How many books read in 2009?

I read 87 books in 2009 and this was the first year I counted pages:  25,036. OOPS!   Found an error of attributing 1000 pages to a book that only had 80 so my total pages read is only 24,186.  (don’t attempt to check my math – I found other errors…)

How many fiction and non fiction?

65 fiction to 22 nonfiction (and oh! what a variety of NF it was!)

Male/Female author ratio?

I read 48 books written by women, 38 by men and one book that was a male-female joint venture (P&P&Z)

Favorite book of 2009?

Either The Book Thief or The Help.     And Proust Was a Neuroscientist for NF.      Nothing But Ghosts for YA, although The Book Thief is YA, too, so – goodness…    I gave the five pie slice rating to 12 books, or almost 14%.      I gave 33 books the four slice rating, and 33 books got three slices, 7 books got two.     Which truly means that only 7 books were of the ‘eh’, just alright no-enthusiasm whatever rating.   Not bad!

Least favourite?

The Jane Austen Book Club (I gave it two slices of pie), The Pillars of the Earth (DNF – didn’t rate), and Lolita – it was extremely frustrating but I still gave it three pie slices.    [Three slices of my infamous avocado lime meringue pie!!]

Any that you simply couldn’t finish and why?

I started Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth during my first attempt to READ during the April Read-A-Thon; I found it very helpful to count page progress this way.   But once the RAT was over and I was not quite half way through with the book,  I started to get irritated with the gratuitous violence and rape scenes and the flat-out (and flatly written?) mean characters.    I tried to skim and finally put it down and I do not regret it.    I think I tried to read the last 30 pages just to see if the darn ol’ cathedral actually was built but realized I didn’t care anymore.

My two other DNFs were books that I just couldn’t get into for either my mood or because the next book I wanted to read was just too tempting.    I hope to get back to Obama’s The Audacity of Hope someday – it was a library book, too.    Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close may have to stay in that bucket I call “I WOULD LOVE THIS if I could just finish it.”    I did not put this down because it was bad.    I just couldn’t seem to pick it back up after I set it down.

Oldest book read?

Eςa de Queiroz’s The Mandarin was published in 1889 and you’d never know it was ‘old’!   Kate Chopin’s The Awakening published in 1899 is both a product of its time and yet forward-thinking beyond any expectation.     Third oldest was Anne of Green Gables – I’m very glad I picked this one up.     Only these 3 published before 1950, except one in 1937; then one in 1955, two in the 60s, three in the 70s, three in the 80s, 14 in the 90s, and the rest in the 2000+ years.


I think it was 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton?   I do think I blew away any record of reading lots of books published in current year.   This is also the book I read with the shortest title.   See next question.

Longest and shortest book titles?

Winner for longest title:   The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn:  A Lakota History by Joseph M. Marshall III.

Longest and shortest books?

The shortest books were all kid’s books!     But for adult books, I think it was Helene Hanff’s 84, Charing Cross Road – a book I was excited to finally read and it didn’t disappoint.       The book with the most pages was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in paperback for 656.  I read 5 books of over 500 pages:   A Prayer for Owen Meany (543), The Book Thief (552), The Blind Assassin (521), The Restless Sleep (515) and I stopped reading about page 500 in The Pillars of the Earth.

How many books from the library?

Elevenish.      Quite a few from bookmooch.    Most purchased or won or given or borrowed from friends.   Only one book sent from an author…

Any translated books?

I read 4 books translated and almost want to add Lolita here because it was so full of stuff I had no idea what it meant, including French phrases and excessive quantity of cultural obscure-to-me references  – I wore out the annotated version.

The Housekeeper and the Professor (from Japanese), Popular Music from Vittula (Swedish), The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (also Swedish) and The Mandarin (Portuguese)

Most read author of the year, and how many books by that author?

I read THREE books by Jennie Nash this year and she was a new-to-me author!   I’m looking forward to reading her next novel which is due in 2010!   What the heck, let’s throw in a few more exclamation points, shall we?!!!!!!

Any re-reads?

Yes, I read The Awakening but didn’t realize until 20-30 pages in that it felt familiar.     And I read The Hobbit for the Flashback Challenge even though I don’t think I every really read it but rather listened to it when I was in 5th grade.

Favourite character of the year?

The narrator of The Art of Racing in the Rain, most everyone in The Help, Olive Kitteridge, Liesel and even more so, Rudy, in The Book Thief, and I might have a place in my heart for lil’ Owen Meany.    Anne of Green Gables – of course, and maybe ol Mister Pip.   I rooted for Annie and her uncle in Through Black Spruce and I enjoyed getting to know Arnold Spirit, Jr in his (The) Absolutely True Diary

Which countries did you go to through the page in your year of reading?

A lot!    Sweden a few times, Iran, France a few times more, lots in Canada – Alberta and Ontario and Nova Scotia (in fiction and non), England and the Channel Isles, Nazi Germany, Japan, Jewish Iraq and a bit of Israel,  Borneo and Papau New Guinea, Portugal and China, Vietnam, I keep seeing books set in France! (5), South Africa, one book in the future “somewhere” and one in the ‘Shire.

As for American States I traveled to:  Maine (twice), Massachusetts (5?), Washington (twice), Texas, Illinois, Louisiana (twice), Virginia, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, alloverUSandWithinNewEngland in Lolita, California (at least twice), upstate New York and 3 in NYC.

Which book wouldn’t you have read without someone’s specific recommendation?

Maree – for all the New Zealand books!   Fizzythoughts is blamed for Through Black Spruce (and probably Lolita and A Prayer for Owen Meany and …), Nymeth for The Mandarin, Lisa at Books on the Brain for introducing me to Jennie Nash by way of a comment and also for Sarah’s Key (sort of – my Bookclub chose it really), Violet for Last Night in Montreal, My Friend Amy encouraged me to buy Kephart’s Nothing But Ghosts, KB got me to read Kristin Hannah but physically putting them into my bookbag and also for Green Grass Running Water, Citizen Reader for half of my nonfic choices, Dewey for John Green books, Ali at Worducopia for inspiring me to read more books by authors of color, and…    TOO MANY!    It would be much easier to list the books that somehow ended up on my list entirely by forces of my own devices, and the best examples:  The Woman’s Guide to Boating because we bought a boat in 2009 and Math Curse by  Jon Scieszka because it was on the teacher’s desk when I substitute taught one day.

Which author was new to you in 2009 that you now want to read the entire works of?

Jennie Nash.    John Green.    Kathryn Stockett.     Lisa Genova.     (You might notice that a few of these are ‘new’ authors and thus don’t have a lot of books, yet.)

In my book tracking, I have  a column for a number of times I have read the author and SEVENTY SEVEN books have a ONE by them.    Seventy seven!      Two of the ten books that had a higher number next to it were repeat authors from this year and one of the books was a re-read so she doesn’t really count.   Since I read two books by an author (Ray Bradbury) that I had previously read in high school, only SIX authors were repeats – 7% – from a prior reading year.    (is this making sense?)      Kazuo Ishiguro, Margart Atwood, Tracy Chevalier, J.R.R.Tolkein, and Audrey Niffenegger.     Honestly, the only one of this small group I care to read more of is Atwood.

Which books are you annoyed you didn’t read?

I am sad that I didn’t get to any Neil Gaiman.    I must MUST read The Bell Jar!      and I really didn’t read any of my fave author Tracy Kidder but I did purchase a few so they are ready for 2010.

Did you read any books you have always been meaning to read?

Yes!    Their Eyes Were Watching God and A Lesson Before Dying.    I had been wanting to read anything by John Irving.    Lolita had always been a curiosity.

Thank you to all my readers/book-blogger-buds!

2009 TOP TEN Events in Care’s Book Life:

10.   The Owen Meany Read-Along was awesome and would love to blog-twit-chat another book this year.

9.  I had the pleasure of meeting two of you in real life:   Beastmomma and Dawn of She is Two Fond of Books.

8.  As much as I scowl about Lolita, I am glad I attempted it and still might someday write a review.     Or read it again.   (What!?)

7.   I had avoided but finally succumbed and now LOVE IT now as the go to place for wishlisting and tbr-ing all the books I want to read someday.

6.   BOSTON BOOK FEST!     So fun.   Good times.    Looking forward to the next.

5.   Twittering the brainstorming session for the Women Unbound Challenge was so terrific and I am so glad I was in on it!    Twitter is a fun place for spontaneous book chats and other silliness.

4.    I love Read-A-Thons!   and BBAW is so cool.

3.   One of my favorite of the challenges I participated in has be Just Add Book‘s New Zealand one in October – it came on quick and only lasted a month;   I did well to read two books Mister Pip and The Vintner’s Luck that I don’t think I ever would have gotten to without this little push and I enjoyed them both immensely.   And I will soon be rewarded with chocolate as a prize for participating.    AWESOME!      Maree!   Got that package shipped yet?!

2.  I can truly say I’m overjoyed and so happy with my new In Real Life Book Club (The Bookies) who are busy influencing my reading choices considerably.      We read 8 books together and I look forward to much more fun in the future.    Very excited about our next choice:   Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

1.   The evolving world of book blogging and the wonderful friends I have met continue to amaze and inspire me.   Thank you.